Sedition Law in India
Sedition law in India is defined under Sec 124A in Indian Penal Code. It was drafted by Thomas Babington Macaulay and included in the IPC in 1870. Section 124A of the IPC, deals with sedition, states, "Whoever, words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
According to National Crime Records Bureau, Between 2016 and 2019, the number of cases filed under Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) increased by 160% while the rate of conviction dropped to 3.3% in 2019 from 33.3% in 2016. Out of 93 cases registered only 2 were convicted. In 2019, the highest number of cases were registered in Karnataka, followed by Assam, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh.
In the a recent hearing petition by Major General (retired) SG Vombatkere who has challenged Section 124A of the IPC which deals with the offence of sedition, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana turned to Attorney General K K Venugopal: “It’s a colonial law. It was meant to suppress the freedom movement. The same law was used by the British to silence Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak etc. Still, is it necessary after 75 years of independence?”.
Further, CJI Ramana said, "If we go see history of charging of this section, the enormous power of this section can be compared to a carpenter being given a saw to make an item, uses it to cut the entire forest instead of a tree. That's the effect of this provision." The CJI further clarified that he is not blaming any state or government for misuse of the provision but, Unfortunately, the executing agency and particularly the authorities misuse it. Take example of 66A which was struck down but people were arrested. There is misuse of these provisions, but there is no accountability.
The Additional General has submitted that, instead of repealing the entire section, paramaters must be laid down to use the sedition law. The bench has sought response from the Advocate General and the matter has been adjourned to July 27, 2021.
As an author, I believe It is high time, either the sedition law be repealed completely or strict parameters must be enforced, in order to maintain the democracy of freedom of speech and to avoid the misuse of the law.